Donhead St Mary Bell Ringers - August 2015 Report

There have been several well-known people who have been bell ringers. Recently, we have Norma Major (wife of the former prime minister), Alan Titchmarsh and Victoria Wood. In the near past, we know of John Betjeman and Frank Muir. However, perhaps the most famous is John Bunyan. He suffered a great deal in his mind throughout his life and evidence of this suffering is seen in the excerpt below from his autobiographical book Grace Abounding to the Chief of Sinners. When he turned from the Church of England to Puritanism, he gave up many pastimes, including dancing, games such as tip-cat, and bell ringing. I have written before about how the Puritans taught that Sunday should be a day of devotion which precluded all amusements; ringers enjoyed ringing, so bell ringing was allowed on weekdays only, not Sundays. John Bunyan took the edict even more to heart and gave it up altogether, as you may read here:

“Now you must know, that, before this, I had taken much delight in ringing, but my conscience beginning to be tender, I thought such practice was but vain, and therefore forced myself to leave it; yet my mind hankered; wherefore I would go to the steeple-house, and look on, though I durst not ring: but I thought this did not become religion neither; yet I forced myself, and would look on still, but quickly after, I began to think, how if one of the bells should fall? Then I chose to stand under a main beam, that lay overthwart the steeple, from side to side, thinking here I might stand sure; but then I should think again, should the bell fall with a swing, it might first hit the wall, and then, rebounding upon me, might kill me for all this beam; this made me stand in the steeple-door; and now, thought I, I am safe enough; for if the bell should now fall, I can slip out behind these thick walls, and so be preserved notwithstanding.

“So after this I would yet go to see them ring, but would not go any farther than the steeple-door; but then it came into my head, how if the steeple itself should fall? And this thought (it may for aught I know) when I stood and looked on, did continually so shake my mind, that I durst not stand at the steeple-door any longer, but was forced to flee, for fear the steeple should fall upon my head.”

If anyone feels braver than Bunyan, you are very welcome to contact me about learning to ring.

Christopher Sykes